Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sor Juana Chats with a Rose

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), born Juana de Asbaje y Ramírez, is one of the foremost Spanish-language poets of the seventeenth century, and certainly has a place as one of the greatest Mexican poets ever. Here's one of her most famous poems, along with a rough draft of my translation; you can find a somewhat more literal rendering here.

En que da moral censura a una rosa, y en ella a sus semejantes

Rosa divina que en gentil cultura
eres, con tu fragrante sutileza,
magisterio purpúreo en la belleza,
enseñanza nevada a la hermosura;

amago de la human arquitectura,
ejemplo de la vana gentileza,
en cuyo sér unió naturaleza
la cuna alegre y triste sepultura:

¡cuán altiva en tu pompa, presumida,
soberbia, el riesgo de morir desdeñas,
y luego desmayada y encogida

de tu caduco sér das mustias señas,
con que con docta muerte y necia vida,
viviendo engañas y muriendo enseñas!

In which she rebukes a rose, and in it those like it

Divine rose, you are grown in grace,
with all your fragrant subtleness,
great teacher with scarlet beauty blessed,
snowy demonstration in a lovely face,

twin of human frame and doom,
example of a gentility vain,
in whom are unified the twain,
the happy cradle and the grieving tomb.

What haughtiness in your pomp, such pride,
such presumption, as you disdain your mortal fate
and later are dismayed and hide

as dying you give signs of withered state
with which, by learnéd death and foolish life,
alive you lied and dying demonstrate!

UPDATE(11/23): Made a slight improvement in a very lame line in my translation.

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